Plans for the site include 1,500 homes for university employees, accommodation for 2,000 students, 100,000m sq of research facilities, as well as 1,500 homes for sale.
Set over a 150-hectare site in north-west Cambridge, about one-third of the development will be given over to sports, informal recreation and ecological use, the university said.
The main open space on the site will be almost as large as Parker's Piece, a park in the centre of Cambridge.
Project director Roger Taylor said that it was "very important that our development is integrated into the existing community and brings positive benefits to local people".
The development will also feature a community centre, a primary school, a nursery, a GP's surgery, a senior care home, a supermarket, shops, a hotel and a police office.
Non-residential buildings will be constructed to BREEAM "excellent" level, the highest green benchmark. Homes are to be zero-carbon, Cambridge said.
The university said that it hoped to minimise car use by creating cycle lanes and giving priority to cyclists and pedestrians throughout the site.
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice-chancellor, said that the plans were "a major part of the university's long-term future".
"It will provide much of the residential and research accommodation that the university needs as it grows over the next 20 years. Attracting world-class academics, researchers and research partners is vital for the university to retain its world-class position amid growing global competition," he said.
"Being able to provide high-quality affordable housing in a thriving community will be an important element of our offer to them," he added.
The university said that it was now seeking residential and commercial development partners for the first phase of the project.